Michael Thompson's Storm Chase Diary
22nd May 2007 - Hill City, Kansas, Tornadic Supercell

All photos (except video stills ) clickable for larger size

An old house in southern South Dakota, I could just imagine the winter bizzards sweeping the prairie
First cell of the day just SE of Hoxie, Kansas
Abandoned farmhouse on the South Dakota Prairie

First cell for the day just S/SE of Hoxie, Kansas

After a days chasing in Montana and South Dakota I found myself in McMurdo in South Dakota. Western Kansas was the target for the 22nd.   The New Zealand storm chaser team whom I had dinner with were pushing onto Valentine, Nebraska for their overnight stay. I should have done the same thing. None the less the stay in McMurdo resulted in an nice late night storm. Target area for the 22nd was western Kansas, a broad area. By mid afternoon is was finally into Kansas. At this stage I was under overcast skies, but as I got further south it cleared to broken cumulus. Knowing that the dryline was a good thing to find I headed SW ending up in Hoxie. I could clearly see the dryline to my west so I decided that Hoxie was a good place to sit and wait. A WiFi signal from the local 'gas' station / store as an added bonus.

I was on Hoxie on my own for about 30 minutes before several storm chasers converged. Roger Hill with his tour group and another tour, with taggers in tow. I introduced myself to the faces I recognised, but I guess an Australian chaser in the USA is not a novelty anymore. Actually to be blunt I was dissapointed with the lack of interest and fellowship - over the three weeks I talked to more Italian, New Zealand and UK chasers than natives.

Cumulus started to boil to the south and this was taking my interest more. After about 20 minutes at the gas station Roger Hill rounds up his troops with a loud " We have to head east ", ", a minute later the carpark was all mine again as not only Roger's van left, but everyone else too. I had made myself one promise before going to the USA and that was not to tag any US chasers and use my own judgments, Australian experience and observations.

Not long afterwards the small cell became visible on radar. It was located  southwards of Hoxie, but was moving NE, so I headed eastwards too.

The storm soon became a line of storms, I located myself just east of a line of supercells sitting on the dryline, but always focusing on the south most cell.

A line of supercells on the dryline
Structure on one of dying supecells
A line of beautiful supercells sitting on the dryline Some nice structure under one of the dying supercells
Mesocyclone, Hill City, Kansas
Mesocyclone, Hill City, Kansas
A lovely updaft and Mesocyclone near Hill City, Kansas
Mothership Supercell, Kansas
Mothership Supercell
Mothership supercell !!
Tornado at last
Tornado at last
Tornado at last

I leap frogged my way south and west on several roads, with the southern most cell always my target.  Finally near Hill City a tornadic supercell developed. The structure was the stuff up until now I had only seen in photos - a mothership updraft and a clearly defined mesocyclone.  Although the tornado the supercell  finally dropped was not that large, it was none the less a very photogenic storm and one I will never forget.

A short video of the supercells are below If you can't see the video click this link

However the show was far from over. Like all the other chasers after the tornado had lifted I debated which way to head. I decided to head northwards than east again hoping to pull ahead of the storm. On the eastern leg I encountered heavy rain, small hail and strong wind. I must confess to being just a little worried at one stage. I finally got ahead of the storm on road 183 near Stockton or Glade. It was dark by now and the lightning due west was almost constant. I filled up at a 'gas' station and also had a crash course in Kansas health department regulations - you cannot wear bare feet inside a store.

I headed southwards towards Hays. Again, but this time in the dark I was overtaken by the storm. I just hoped that there was no tornado. I finally cleared the storm several miles from Hays, but another storm  was boiling to the west of Hays. I pulled up on the 183 / I70 junction and shot some lovely lightning photos as the tornado sirens screamed in the town.

Looking north back up road 183, Hays, Kansas
Looking SW towards Hays
Looking north back up road 183 from Hays Kansas

Looking SW towards Hays, Kansas

Hays, Kansas
Hays, Kansas
Hays Kansas East of Hays

Wanting to extend my day as far as possible I headed even further east  and stayed the night at Salina, however the storms weakened and did not make Salina.